|Review: Kiuas - The Spirit of Ukko|
|The Spirit of Ukko|
Label: SpineFarm Records
Year released: 2005
Genre: Power Metal
Review online: March 9, 2008
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
for:The Spirit of Ukko
This band has gotten quite a lot of praise heaped upon them since their inception, and a lot of that praise is indeed deserved. Kiuas play Power Metal, except not in the way you'd expect. Sure, they have fantasy-based lyrics, but the music here is about as far from derivative as Power Metal can get, having elements of Death Metal and 80s Hard Rock blended into the colorful palette of influences on display. An accurate description might be Children of Bodom with less keyboards, less harsh vocals and a more serious thematic but even that is pretty far off from what The Spirit of Ukko sounds like.
The vocals range from a mid-ranged, gritty snarl to a much harsher sort of rasp/growl, and the music is a majestic cacophony of heavy, pugilistic riffs, riveting guitar leads that border on neoclassical at times, a few slight folk inclinations, and even a few "epic" overtones with grandiose synths and orchestrations, although these are few and far between. While that description doesn't sound too off-the-wall, it's the songwriting style that's uneven and bizarre. The title track opens this disc, and it's a triumphant, pounding Power Metal epic in the style of old Blind Guardian, except with that unique Kiuas touch that was already in place even here. "On Wings of Death We Ride" is a double-bass throttled speed cooker with a high-octane shout-along chorus, and then "No More Sleep for Me" is a sludgy, distorted romp with a more Hard Rock vibe to it, having a chorus slightly reminiscent of AC/DC's heavier songs; quickly kicking into the next song, "Warrior Soul," which is a full-fledged galloping volley through 80s Helloween country. The album plods on further with a few Prog Rock/Metal influences, and one song ("Thorns of a Black Rose") that sounds like Gutter Ballet-era Savatage, except about three times as heavy...see what I'm going with this?
What I'm getting at is that Kiuas are exuberant and very inventive, cramming as many ideas as they possibly can into this. It all makes for a very interesting listening experience, with some really killer ideas and a great sound overall, with no real weak links, but at times it's just a bit too much. Kiuas on this debut album comes off as the equivalent of an enthusiastic young artist, filling a white canvass with every color on his palette, eager to create just about the best fucking painting in the entire world; one so enamored and dense in color that it could eclipse the sun, to put hyperbole to use. He has not learned the meaning of the old adage, "less is more," and thus, while having immense talent, creates something that is jumbled and rather messy, in spite of being somewhat pleasing to the naked eye. The Spirit of Ukko is a diverse, musically rich album, but the band didn't even try to restrain themselves here, just blazing away with the speedometer at 11 on every single song, and sadly they don't all come together as well as I would've liked.
Nevertheless, though, that weakness also ends up being one of Kiuas's greatest strengths. While I would've preferred a more restrained, slightly more subtle style of songwriting, Kiuas's manic creative energy is really something you have to hear yourself to believe. They might throw everything they can possibly think of into the 40-odd minutes of music contained within The Spirit of Ukko, but there is a certain charm to it that simply can't be denied. Even when you take Kiuas's faults into consideration, if you're a Power Metal fan, you will no doubt drool over the combination of genres on display here. And like the eager young painter, there is an earnest, genuine sense of pride at work on this album, and that is heartwarming as well as worthy of respect from any serious Metal fan.
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